We’re in the second part of our series on “The 12 Disciples”. These posts will be recaps of sermons preached by Pastor Harper. We hope that the unique format we use to look at the lives of these men will really make this interesting and impactful for all of us.
Each of the disciples’ stories will be based off what the Bible shows us about their lives and what they were like, but also understand that for the sake of keeping the overall narrative of their lives moving forward as it’s told, some of what we could call “sanctified imagination” will be used, and just logical conclusions in general will be drawn from the facts we know.
Pastor Harper asked Jared T. to create a few sketches for each sermon to help visualize the lives of these men, so the artwork you’ll see in these posts is all Jared’s original work; and we are very grateful to him for the time and energy he put into making these.
Matthew 10:2-4 gives us the first full listing in the Bible of the names of all twelve disciples, and we’ll take them in order as they come - in the spring we posted the story of Peter (read Peter’s narrative here), and we move next to Andrew.
Tears blurred my sight as I ran.
Whether they were from the wind or the flood of emotions in my heart, I couldn’t tell and I didn’t care. In a sense, it didn’t matter.
I knew how to find my way along this road in the dark almost as well as Simon could navigate our boat in a storm. Often I would end up going the road alone, and I never minded. Especially at night, in the dark, when the peaceful rhythm of the tide kept the perfect timing for a thoughtful step.
Or even better was right before dark, just as the sun was setting. You’ve never seen a sunset until you’ve seen it set over Galilee. The intense rays reflecting off the grass and rocks of the hills made them look like solid gold! And the shine off the shimmer and waves of the sea made the water look like flames! The spectacle forbade you from looking away. Then, at the very last moment of light, everything shone a hue of deepest wine, and then … black!
When I had time (and even when I didn’t) I would stop … and sit … and think. Or if Simon had finished with the nets early and caught up to me by then, I didn’t dare stop and sit, but we would both think … and talk … and think.
After the fatigue and pace of a non-stop day of steering the boat, casting the nets, hauling them in hand-over-hand, and dumping the fish again and again, I longed for the peace of taking this walk home alone; but in truth, the best times where walking this road with Simon. Oh, you walked at his speed—anyone did who was with him—but it drove the emotion of his ideas.
Our favorite topic, of course, was the words of the prophets about the coming of Messiah.
Looking over the fiery waters into the luster of the surrounding hills, you couldn’t help but think of His coming. When Simon and I were young, we would fall asleep listening to Father quote from the prophets. His impassioned descriptions thrilled us. What would Messiah be like? From where would He come? And when? There was a desperation in Father’s voice that never left hold of me … or Simon.
Even now as we carried on the family business, we were proud of our heritage. Sure, fishing could be cruelly hard work, but we loved the water and the work. And yet, we craved something more. Deep in our bosom burned a holy fire—an unquenchable longing for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom—the coming of Messiah!
If Father’s interpretations were accurate, then the time could be near.
“Not in my day,” he would yearn, then pointing to our hearts with blazing eyes, “but in yours, and in yours … or perhaps your children’s day? … He will come. The hour … is at hand!”
And oh, how we believed it. Oh how we wanted it to be true.
I can remember helping Simon turn Father’s boat over, and huddling under it at night with James and John, sharing with them Father’s insights. When we were older and I got to know Philip, I couldn’t wait to let him into our Messiah talks too. James and John didn’t like the idea of bringing him into our group at first, but Simon didn’t mind, so that settled that.
From then on you could find me running to the other side of Bethsaida at least once a week to tell Philip when and where we’d be meeting again. In time Nathaniel would join us too. We became best of friends. These guys, the familiar shapes of Galilee’s hills, and the stretch of these shorelines—they were my whole life. I could never have known how much that would all change … yet, how much it would also stay the same.
That’s how the power of Jesus works, you know.
He takes us, just as we are, and yet He changes us into something we could never have become. We’re still the same old person, but we’re, at the same time, in some supernatural way, transformed into something new. Jesus called it being “born again.” He said, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). How I wanted that more than anything.
That’s how I ended up dashing blindly down the road that day.
Blinking away the tears, I thought my heart would burst. Not from exhaustion, but joy!
A few weeks earlier, news had reached Bethsaida of a man from the wilderness preaching repentance, and claiming to be the forerunner of Messiah. The report definitely caught our interest, but never went much beyond that. It seemed like every few years another radical would arise, claiming to be a prophet, or even Messiah Himself.
Nothing would ever come of them. If the Romans didn’t arrest them for insurrection, or the Jews didn’t stone them for blasphemy, they would disappear into obscurity once their following died away. At first, this baptizer seemed to be the same.
People said he ate grasshoppers dipped in honey, and dressed like Elijah. Like I said, these kinds of men could be odd! Still, I wondered about him and what he was preaching. Unlike many of the frauds of the past, this man wasn’t claiming to be Messiah.
His only claims were that he was called of God to prepare the way for the true Messiah, and that men should ready themselves by repenting and being immersed as a public statement of their inner belief.
The more I thought about it, what was so mad about that?
Simon told me he didn’t trust this “baptizer,” and that he wasn’t interested in giving up a week or two’s income just to follow this man, only to be “dunked and duped.” We discussed it with James and John, and James thought the man was not in his right mind, and might even prove to be dangerous.
But not John. Good old John—heart as big as the sea and a capacity to believe that ran just as deep. He became determined to go listen to the Baptizer, and I wanted to go with him. I’m still not sure what finally convinced them, maybe it was their secret yearning that it might be true, but somehow Simon and James agreed to let John and me leave our fishing businesses to them alone for one week so we could go and discover whether or not this man and his message were real.
I don’t think John or I can ever forget the moment we first saw the Baptizer, or the moment we first heard him.
At that time he was about half a day’s journey from Bethsaida. We had been walking all morning, wondering how much farther along the Jordan we would have to go before we found him.
Then, we heard it—something between a cry and a scream. It was a man’s voice! His voice! And as it turned out, we were still a half-furlong away! You may not have enjoyed his voice, but one thing you couldn’t do was ignore it. It wasn’t filled with anger, just … authority … and power.
We continued in the direction of the sound, finally adjusting ourselves to its brashness, when we came to the crowd, some freshly soaked from their baptism. We made our way through the religious leaders standing on the fringe, and there he was. And what a sight! If his voice didn’t drive you away his looks definitely could.
The elders’ traditions described how the prophet Elijah had his own extremes, but he had nothin’ on this guy. Tawny and bronzed by the sun, sinewy with well-defined but wiry muscles, large hands that waved and shook like palm leaves, a cloak of camel’s hide, a great shock of hair, deep creases like ravines in his weathered face, and sapphire eyes that shone with a holy brightness. He was, you could say, consumed with the message of the Messiah. And it was unmistakable.
Not so much because of his wilderness-like appearance and fiery personality, but because of a holy fire that came from within.
I especially came to understand this. Knowing the truth about who Jesus really was burned in my heart. I was compelled, driven, to let other people know. Some of them probably thought I was as crazy as the Baptizer, but I didn’t care. None of that mattered. I understood in a personal way the words of Jeremiah the prophet who said,
[The Lord’s] word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not.”
All that meant something to me—I was living to share about Jesus with one more person. And you know, looking back, I’m more confident than ever: I wasn’t crazy, because like the Baptizer, I just had to tell. No, even more than that—Jesus is so real that I would have been crazy not to tell.
But there he was that day, the Baptizer—exhorting and plunging those who believed, while debating and condemning the religious leaders.
John and I were captivated. We’d never seen such a display of zeal and fervor, and we grew up with Simon and James! We traveled with the Baptizer all that week. Whenever the crowds would disperse, leaving us alone, we, along with the others traveling with him, asked every question we ever had about the Kingdom of God and His Messiah.
The Baptizer never minded; rather, it’s all he would talk about. Even if one of us asked a question about his own life and calling, he pointed every answer back to Messiah, only mentioning his own self in relation to his role of forerunner. Daily we pressed him for an indication of when Messiah would come. But all The Baptizer would ever say is that we would know when the timing was right. John had the faith to believe almost from the start; and I wanted to, but I needed more proof. If this man really was the forerunner for the Messiah, then where was the Messiah? “You will know at the appointed time” was wearing thin in my mind.
On day six of our allowed seven days, I was humbled to admit that Simon and James had probably been right. The Baptizer was just another mock storm—clouds and wind, lightning and thunder … but no rain.
Or so I thought.
For John’s sake, I agreed to stay with the Baptizer until the end of that second-to-the-last day. But that was the end for me.
By now we had traveled to within a half-hour’s walk from Bethsaida anyway, so we could still be home by dark. My body was present, but my mind was home, calculating how I would respond to Simon’s harassment. Though he allowed me to go, he was clearly irritated at being left to fish alone for an entire week. My heart was closing its doors too. The Baptizer meant well enough, but I guess he left me feeling pretty … disillusioned.
It’s hard to know who to trust, or how much of all that prophecy is really … real.
The Baptizer must have sensed my sour spirit, because he suddenly stopped short his preaching, pushed aside the next in line for immersion, and slowly turned, thrusting his finger my direction and looking right at me, no—through me.
I was horrified. Even the worst of Simon’s tirades I had learned to handle, but I wasn’t sure I could survive this.
“Look!” he blared out, making a public spectacle. My cheeks burned as everyone now turned to stare at me. I broke, and looked down in shame.
“Oh, God of Israel!” I cried out in my mind, “Forgive my small faith. I confess my hardness of heart.”
Then, bringing my face back up with all the fortitude in me, I braced myself for what was next … but no. The crowd wasn’t looking at me. The Baptizer wasn’t even looking at me. They were all looking past me. By impulse I started to spin around myself, but before I could, the Baptizer cried out again,
“The Lamb—of God!”
Continue below to read the conclusion of Andrew’s story - or listen online to Pastor Harper telling it himself!